Kyiv prepares for a winter without heat, water or electricity

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The mayor of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, is warning residents to prepare for the worst this winter if Russia continues to hit the country’s energy infrastructure — and that means not having electricity, water or heat in the freezing cold cannot be ruled out.

“We are doing everything to avoid this. But let’s be frank, our enemies are doing everything so that the city is without heating, without electricity, without water, in general, so we all die. And the future of the country and the future of each of us depends on our preparation for different situations,” Mayor Vitali Klitschko told state media.

Russia has been focused on striking Ukraine’s energy infrastructure over the past month, causing power shortages and blackouts across the country. Kyiv was expected to have hourly power outages on Sunday in parts of the city and the surrounding region.

Continued power cuts were also expected in neighboring regions of Chernihiv, Cherkasy, Zhytomyr, Sumy, Kharkiv and Poltava, Ukraine’s state-owned energy operator, Ukrenergo, said.

Kyiv plans to deploy around 1,000 heating points, but noted that this may not be enough for a city of 3 million people.

As Russia intensifies its attacks on the capital, Ukrainian forces advance south. Residents of the Russian-occupied Ukrainian city of Kherson have received warning messages on their phones urging them to evacuate as soon as possible, the Ukrainian military said on Sunday. Russian soldiers warned civilians that the Ukrainian army was preparing for a massive attack and told people to leave immediately towards the right bank of the city.

Russian forces are preparing for a Ukrainian counteroffensive to retake the southern city of Kherson, which was captured early in the invasion. In September, Russia illegally annexed Kherson along with three other regions of Ukraine and then declared martial law in all four provinces.

The Kremlin-installed administration in Kherson has already moved tens of thousands of civilians out of the city.

Russia is “occupying and evacuating” Kherson simultaneously, trying to convince the Ukrainians to leave when in fact they are digging, Nataliya Humenyuk, spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Southern Forces, told state television.

“There are defense units that dug in quite powerfully, a certain amount of equipment was left behind, firing positions were set up,” she said.

Russian forces are also digging into a bitterly disputed region to the east, worsening already difficult conditions for residents and the defending Ukrainian army following the illegal annexation of Moscow and the declaration of martial law in the Donetsk province.

The attacks almost completely destroyed power plants that serve the town of Bakhmut and the nearby town of Soledar, said Pavlo Kyrylenko, Ukrainian governor of the region. The shelling killed one civilian and injured three, he reported on Saturday evening.

“The destruction is daily, if not hourly,” Kyrylenko told state television.

Moscow-backed separatists controlled part of Donetsk for nearly eight years before Russia invaded Ukraine in late February. Protecting the self-proclaimed republic from separatists was one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s justifications for the invasion, and his troops spent months trying to capture the entire province.

While Russia’s “greatest brutality” was focused on the Donetsk region, “constant fighting” continued elsewhere along the frontline which stretches more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), a said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in his nightly video address.

Between Saturday and Sunday, Russia launched four missiles and 19 airstrikes hitting more than 35 villages in nine regions, from Chernihiv and Kharkiv in the northeast to Kherson and Mykolaiv in the south, according to the president’s office. The strikes killed two people and injured six, the office said.

In the Donetsk town of Bakhmut, 15,000 remaining residents were living under daily shelling and without water or electricity, according to local media. The city has been under attack for months, but shelling resumed after Russian forces suffered setbacks during Ukrainian counter-offensives in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions.

The front line is now on the outskirts of Bakhmut, where mercenaries from the Wagner Group, a shadowy Russian military company, are said to be leading the charge.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the group that has generally remained under the radar, plays a more visible role in the war. In a statement on Sunday, he announced the funding and establishment of “militia training centers” in Russia’s southwestern regions of Belgorod and Kursk, saying locals were best placed to “fight against the sabotage” on Russian soil. The training centers are in addition to a military technology center that the group announced to open in Saint Petersburg.

In Kharkiv, officials were working to identify bodies found in mass graves after the Russians withdrew, Dmytro Chubenko, spokesman for the regional prosecutor’s office, told local media.

DNA samples have been taken from 450 bodies discovered in a mass grave in the town of Izium, but the samples must be matched with relatives and so far only 80 people have participated, he said .

Among the good news, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been reconnected to the Ukrainian power grid, local media reported on Sunday. Europe’s largest nuclear power plant needs electricity to maintain vital cooling systems, but it has been running on backup diesel generators since Russian bombing cut its external connections.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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